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Recommended reading

Jeremy J. Smith, Older Scots: A Linguistic Reader
Scottish Text Society, 2012

This work is a welcome and timely introductory guide to the Scots language up to c1700, and is aimed at students, more advanced scholars and anyone seeking to gain an understanding of older Scots, as illustrated by its rich literature.

In Part I Professor Smith sets the scene with introductory chapters on the history, transmission, grammar, lexicon and semantics of the language, supported by explanations of the linguistic terminology used in the rest of the book. He also provides much valuable information on sources of further information for the interested reader.

In Part II, which forms the bulk of the book, he presents an examination and analysis of a representative list of texts taken from a range of genres comprising both non-literary texts such as letters and official documents, and literary texts with a chapter each on poetry, prose and bible translations.

All in all Professor Smith has provided us with a clearly-written, information-packed resource, enriched by his extensive knowledge of and passion for language. This book is a must-have for anyone interested in Older Scots.


Iseabail Macleod and J. Derrick McClure (eds.), Scotland in Definition: A History of Scottish Dictionaries
John Donald Short Run Press, 2012

This book provides a comprehensive history of dictionaries of both Scots and Scottish Gaelic, with chapters written by experts in the field, many of whom are themselves part of that history. There are contributions from past and present editors of various dictionaries, which together paint a picture of a strong lexicographical tradition in Scotland from the earliest word lists to the online resources of the 21st century.

Coinciding with SLD's 10th anniversary year, this volume gives us a fascinating insight into the dedication of lexicographers of the languages of Scotland.

Philip Durkin, The Oxford Guide to Etymology
Oxford University Press, 2009

This practical and thorough introduction to etymology provides a fascinating guide to where words come from and how they change. Philip Durkin, Principal Etymologist of the Oxford English Dictionary, covers a range of topics such as types of borrowing, word formation and semantic change. Readable and informative, this book fills a gap in the literature of lexicography.

John Burnett, Robert Burns and the Hellish Legion
National Museums Scotland, 2009.

The John Burnett book is interesting because it gives an overview of what life was like for the ordinary folk at the time of Burns. It goes into detail about such subjects as health, superstition, the progress of the year and how, generally, people were dominated by their environment - be that city, town or county. The book should prove popular with Burns enthusiasts.

Bill Findlay, ed. Scottish People's Theatre: Plays by Glasgow Unity Writers
Association for Scottish Literary Studies, 2008

This 2008 ASLS volume contains five influential plays of lasting power and sensitivity in the genuine voices of Glasgow from the 1940s: The Gorbals Story by Robert McLeish, Men Should Weep by Ena Lamont Stewart, Gold in his Boots by George Munro, The Lambs of God by Benedick Scott and All in Good Faith by Roddy McMillan.

Nicole Meier (ed.), The Poems of Walter Kennedy
Scottish Text Society, 2008

After having had his gas put at a peep by Dunbar in the Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy, the long neglected Kennedy at last takes centre stage in this scholarly edition of his poems. The ample dimensions of the book belie the comparatively small canon of Kennedy's works but it includes all the manuscript versions and the Chepman and Myllar Prints for comparison. The introduction is comprehensive and often infectious in its enthusiasm for a very underrated Scots poet.

Ian Brown, Thomas Owen Clancy, Susan Manning and Murray Pittock (eds.), The Edinburgh History of Scottish Literature, 3 vols.
Edinburgh University Press, 2007

The Edinburgh History of Scottish Literature consists of three handsome volumes covering 'From Columba to the Union', 'Enlightenment, Britain and Empire' and 'Modern Transformations: New Identities'. It is comprehensive and scholarly but highly accessible. Scottish Literature in Gaelic, Latin Norse, Welsh, Scots and Scottish English are all included. This is a book to dip into time and time again.

Christian J. Kay and Margaret A. Mackay (eds.), Perspectives on the Older Scottish Tongue
Edinburgh University Press, 2005

This celebration of A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue brings together a number of distinguished scholars writing on topics as varied as 'Wyne confortative', murder and traditional building methods. It is both enjoyable and authoritative and illustrates the breadth of uses to which a dictionary may be put.

John Corbett, J. Derrick McClure, Jane Stuart-Smith (eds.), The Edinburgh Companion to Scots Edinburgh University Press, 2003

The Edinburgh Companion to Scots is essential reading for anyone studying Scots at university level. It is a clear, comprehensive introduction to Older Scots and Modern Scots illustrating research methods in grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation etc. Place-names, planning issues and the development of Scots overseas are also covered.

Caroline Macafee, Traditional Dialect in the Modern World: a Glasgow case study
Peter Lang, 1994

This in depth sociolinguistic study explores standardisation and erosion of traditional dialects. It provides a vivid and accurate account of Glasgow speech and its objective account of the views of speakers themselves is central to the understanding of language retention and change. The methodology and the outcomes cast light on similar linguistic tensions throughout Scotland and, indeed, in a European context.

Caroline Macafee and Iseabail Macleod (eds.), The Nuttis Schell: Essays on the Scots Language
Aberdeen University Press, 1987

This wide-ranging collection of essays by distinguished Scots scholars, presented to A. J. Aitken, remains essential reading for anyone with a serious interest in the Scots Language. Lexicography, Older Scots and Modern Scots are all represented.

Billy Kay, Scots: The Mither Tongue
Mainstream Publishing, 1986

This is a highly readable, very informative and often passionate introduction to the Scots language by a well known writer and broadcaster. Even if you already know a lot about Scots, this is a book that will delight you with well chosen excerpts and stimulating commentary.